SS City of Benares

From SpottingWorld, the Hub for the SpottingWorld network...
SS City of Benares.jpg
Name: City of Benares
Owner: Ellerman Lines Ltd, London
Operator: City Line Ltd
Port of registry: Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Glasgow
Builder: Barclay, Curle & Co, Whiteinch, Glasgow
Yard number: 656
Launched: 5 August 1935
Completed: October 1936
Identification: Official Number 164096
Code Letters GZBW
Fate: sunk on 18 September 1940
General characteristics
Class and type: Steam passenger ship
Tonnage: 11,081 GRT
Length: 486 feet 1 inch (148.16 m)
Beam: 62 feet 7 inches (19.08 m)
Depth: 30 feet 8 inches (9.35 m)
Propulsion: Three Cammell Laird steam turbines (1,450 horsepower (1,080 kW)), single reduction geared driving a single screw
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h)
Capacity: 219 (single class)
Crew: 209

SS City of Benares was a steam passenger ship built for Ellerman Lines by Barclay, Curle & Co of Glasgow in 1936. During the Second World War she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-48 with heavy loss of life. The sinking resulted in the total cancellation of the Children's Overseas Reception Board (CORB) plan to relocate British children abroad.


City of Benares was built by Lithgows Ltd, Port Glasgow. She was launched on 5 August 1935,[1] and completed in October 1936. She was managed by City Line Ltd on behalf of her owners, Ellerman Lines Ltd.[2]

Last voyage

City of Benares was part of convoy OB-213, and was being used as a refugee ship in the overseas evacuation scheme of Great Britain, organised by CORB. She was carrying 90 child evacuee passengers who were being evacuated from wartime Britain to Canada. Also aboard were Mary Cornish, an accomplished classical pianist who had volunteered as a children's escort, James Baldwin-Webb, a parliamentarian, Rudolf Olden and his wife, a German exiled writer, and documentary director Ruby Grierson. The ship departed Liverpool on 13 September 1940, bound for the Canadian ports of Quebec and Montreal, under the command of her Master, Landles Nicoll. She was the flagship of the convoy commodore Rear Admiral E.J.G. Mackinnon DSO RN and the first ship in the center column.

Late in the evening of 17 September, the City of Benares was sighted by U-48, who fired two torpedoes at her at 23.45 hours. Both torpedoes missed, and at 00.01 hours on 18 September, the U-boat fired another torpedo at her. The torpedo struck her in the stern causing her to sink within 30 minutes, 253 miles west-southwest of Rockall. Unbeknownst to Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Bleichrodt (who was commanding the U-48), on board the liner were 90 children being evacuated to Canada under the Children's Overseas Reception Board's initiative in order to escape the effects of the Blitz.

15 minutes after the torpedo hit, the vessel had been abandoned, though there were difficulties with lowering the lifeboats on the weather side of the ship. HMS Hurricane arrived on the scene 24 hours later, and picked up 105 survivors and landed them at Greenock. During the attack on the SS City of Benares, the SS Marina was also torpedoed. Hurricane mistakenly counted one of the lifeboats from the SS Marina for one of the lifeboats from SS City of Benares. As a result, Lifeboat 12 was left alone at sea. Its passengers had three weeks supply of food, but enough water only for one week. In the lifeboat were approximately 30 Indian crewmen, a Polish merchant, several sailors, Mary Cornish, Father Rory O'Sullivan (a Roman Catholic priest who had volunteered to be an escort for the evacuee children), and six evacuee boys from the CORB program. They spent eight days afloat in the Atlantic Ocean before being sighted from the air and rescued by HMS Anthony.

In total, 248 of the 406 people on board, including the master, the commodore, three staff members, 121 crew members and 134 passengers were lost. 77 of the 90 child evacuee passengers were also killed in the sinking, prompting the immediate cessation of the Children’s Overseas Reception Board.


City of Benares was 486 ft 1 in (148.16 m) long, with a beam of 62 feet 7 inches (19.08 m) and draught of 30 feet 8 inches (9.35 m). She was powered by three steam turbines which were supplied by Cammell Laird. They were oil fired and drove a single screw via single reduction gearing,[2] giving her a speed of 15 knots (28 km/h).[1]

Official number and code letters

Official Numbers were a forerunner to IMO Numbers.

City of Benares had the UK Official Number 164096 and used the Code Letters GZBW.[2]

Coordinates: 56°43′N 21°15′W / 56.717°N 21.25°W / 56.717; -21.25

See also

Culture and Media

The SS City of Benares is the setting of the book "Wish Me Luck" by James Heneghan. "Wish Me Luck" is the story of a boy from Liverpool being sent away to safety on the City of Benares.


  1. 1.0 1.1 ""1164096"" (subscription required). Miramar Ship Index. R.B. Haworth. Retrieved 28 September 2009. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "LLOYD'S REGISTER, STEAMERS & MOTORSHIPS". Plimsoll Ship Data. Retrieved 28 September 2009. 

External links

de:City of Benares